I’ve had writing workshops very much on my mind lately, and it occurs to me that there’s a remarkable variety in terms of different events and organizations that use that phrase to describe themselves. For instance:
Odyssey, the workshop that I’ve been waiting to see if I’ll get into. I got word two weeks ago that I was on the short waiting list, and that spots would most likely open up around the end of April, though there might be a last-minute drop-out as late as May 25th.
Odyssey is a six-week session with about sixteen participants, lectures, one-on-one consultations with the instructure, guest lecturers, and intense but constructive critique circle sessions between the participants. It’s held in Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, with all participants living in residence.
I’m not really sure what to expect if I get into Odyssey, but the odd thought flashed through my head as I was listening to ‘Starship troopers’ on my audiobook player that it would likely be a writer’s version of ‘Boot Camp’ – intellectually and emotionally exhausting, but an experience that, if you got through it without cracking, would make you forever a stronger person inside and a much better writer.
Wish me luck on the waiting list thing, by the way!
While I was waiting to hear about Odyssey, I got good news in my email inbox about a completely different writing workshop. Lindsey Grant posted over at the Office of Letters and Light blog asking for suggestions about ‘revision tools’ to help National Novel Writing Month writers work on editing their stories through the year. I was really excited about the call for suggestions, since I felt I had a bit of experience with what worked and what didn’t over at places like Nanoedmo, Nanopubye, and Stringing Words, and so I put together four suggestions and posted them without even really paying attention to the prizes that Lindsey had waved to try and encourage feedback.
But wouldn’t you know it, I won the first prize in the random draw, and got to pick one of two Diane Rich Storywonk workshops to participate in for free. These are held online via a private message board and chat room, and I’m looking forward to the workshop I picked, “Discovery writing: Finding your voice.” The other workshop offered was ‘Making Magic’, about unleashing your inner creativity, which I hope the second draw winner gets a lot out of. These days, I feel as if my creativity is about as unleashed as it needs to be.
There are other kinds of workshops that I’ve already participated in. Brian Henry’s Saturday workshops are one-day affairs, as you can probably guess, running about six hours including coffee breaks and lunch time. Possibly a bit like a relaxed miniature Odyssey, they usually have a lecture component from Brian, some time for the participants to write on their own, and to interact with each other in small groups, brainstorming or critiquing each other’s writing.
And then, there’s the “New Writing Workshop”, which is very much like an amateur writer’s critique circle with an unfixed membership and moderately strict rules about how the critiquing is run. As far as that goes, probably most writer’s circles qualify as workshops in the sense that they involve writers coming together and helping each other, which is pretty much the only common thread I can find in all of these workshops.
What do you think – what makes a workshop a workshop? What does the word mean to you?